- British firms are widely opposed to the “max-fac” solution for post-Brexit customs favoured by ministers including Boris Johnson and David Davis, according to a landmark survey of 800 business leaders.
- The news comes as Theresa May prepares for crunch talks on Friday which could ultimately define the shape of Brexit – and customs is one of the biggest sticking points.
- Business leaders also want to stay as closely aligned to the EU as possible.
LONDON – British businesses have overwhelmingly rejected the post-Brexit customs solution favoured Boris Johnson and David Davis, according to a landmark survey of 800 business leaders,
As British ministers prepare for high-stakes Brexit crunch talks on Friday, more than twice as many members (54%) of the Institute of Directors said they would opt to maintain “near-frictionless” trade with just 24% saying they would be happy to rely on the untested technological-based solutions known as “max-fac” proposal.
The survey indicated that most business leaders want to stay as closely aligned to the EU as possible. Fifty-five per cent of those polled said their priority on standards and regulations was “minimising the potential for regulatory divergence with the EU to maintain as much of our existing market access as possible.”
Just 15%, meanwhile, said that tailoring British regulations at the cost of EU access was their priority.
Theresa May’s make-or-break crunch talks
The findings come as Theresa May prepares for crunch talks on Friday which could ultimately define the shape of Brexit. More than two years after the UK voted to leave the EU, the 29-strong UK Cabinet does not have a settled negotiating position on almost any element of Brexit talks.
Customs is one of the principal sticking points with the prime minister continuing to push a form of “customs partnership” – seen as a softer form of Brexit – which is vehemently opposed by Leave-supporting ministers like Johnson and Davis because it would retain EU infrastructure and prevent Britain from signing independent trade deals.
Most pro-Brexit ministers favour “max-fac” which would use technology to manage the UK border with the EU which does not currently exist.
EU officials have previously indicated that they will reject both sets of proposals.
The research from the Institute of Directors comes as business groups ramp up their warnings over the dangers of a hard Brexit.
The British Chambers of Commerce on Tuesday urged politicians to cast aside “squabbling” and provide certainty on its negotiating position, echoing frustrations from Airbus and BMW last week they could be forced out of the UK if ministers do not reach decisions by the summer.
Boris Johnson reportedly replied with the comment “f**k business”. Johnson declined under questioning by MPs to deny making the comments.
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